In this holiday season, are you a TAKER or RECEIVER?
No fluff. No long introduction!
It all came about during my holiday gift delivery. You see, for the past 17 years, every December I have been delivering, yes, hand delivering, anywhere between 30-500 gifts to my clients all over the State of Georgia. Plus, few that I mail. It’s my favorite part of the job. I truly take unmeasurable joy in “ giving”, without talking business. There’s never any expectation or demand in return. It’s just the spirit of giving that lights up the season for me. And I would say, more often than not, I am received with pleasure, joy and gratitude.
Most often, I said!
Why not always, you may ask!
Well, perhaps because there is an art to “receiving" as much as there is to “giving”.
Giving with open heart.
Giving without expectation.
Receiving with gratitude.
Gratitude for the thought, for the time, for the endeavor.
What do you think?
During one of my deliveries this year, the gentleman I delivered to, was not in his office. I left the tower of Godiva chocolate on his desk with a note. By the time I was getting ready to leave the building, he was back at his desk. So I appear at his office door just to say seasons greetings. He had obviously discovered the gift since it was no longer sitting on his desk.
Without looking up, he shouts out,” HI, BYE”. Dismissing me without hesitation. Leaving no room for me to say anything. Not even acknowledging that I had driven over 50 miles to bring the holiday cheer to the office. I was taken aback.
After the initial heat of judgement, vexation and disappointment, that fired up my ego, I caught myself. Came back to my center and considered possibilities. Maybe he was really overwhelmed. Perhaps he was having a very bad day. After all, it’s giving without expectation, right? Calmly, I walked out. Drove back in holiday traffic. Lost in my thoughts; what has happened to grace & gratitude? How much are we taking life for granted? How much are we lost in the Busi-ness? How much do our roles define us? Who would I be without the ideatity described on my business card?
Yes. Like they say; this too shall pass. And what did I learn? What was the lesson? What can I or should I do differently? As a coach, this spirit of self observation and learning never leaves me ( I hope).
For me, the lesson was, receive as gracefully as you give. There’s a big difference between “a receiver” and “a taker”. No matter how small or big is the gift. Whether it’s a smile from a stranger, a warm welcome from the waiter serving you or a key to a brand new car; how we receive defines how connected we are to our source. To the Universe. To humanity. How we receive builds or breaks relationships. It sets the path for future. There is always a choice.
Pause: What’s your way of receiving?
Happy Yalda Night ( Winter Solstice)
If I ask you to name three of the "major assumptions” you make in life, what comes to your mind?
Perhaps this is too generalized of a question. Let’s narrow it down. Let’s simplify it with an example.
From the day I was born, in the culture I was raised, I have always, however silently, been told that “mothers are sacrificial, no good deed goes unanswered, integrity and grace are more valuable than money”. I can go on and on.
Pause: What are some of the unspoken rules you were raised with? Some values that have created set assumptions for you?
The list of unspoken rules that etch their way into our souls is infinite. So what happens when the etching becomes so deeply engraved that it would affect all our choices, our interactions and our language? So deeply engraved that we fail to see them as separate from ourselves. They become a part of us. All together they will form our narratives. They become filters which stand between us and the world. The big barrier that holds us captive. A nervous system, wires that have fired together for so long that make it impossible to act outside what they dictate to us. They become the Major Assumptions that hold us. We speak, we decide and we connect to the world from behind the bars of these MajorAssumptions.
Pause: What are some of the Assumptions that create your reality? How do they show up in your choice of words? In your language? How do they affect the way you connect and communicate with the world?
Without a mindful approach to these big assumptions we are, throughout our lives, held by their powerful grip. They become the roadmap of all the decisions we make and take us through life blindly, repeating the same patterns over and over. But that’s the ban news! The good news is that possibility for change exists!
Mindful awareness, can bring a major shift to this equation. With awareness, recognition and acceptance, instead of the assumptions holding us back, we can use them to gain more perspective. Awareness can open the gate so that we can act free from those assumptions and instead of being help by them, hold them as a part of our conscious decision making.
Pause: What are some of the assumptions that you hold as reality? How have they affected your language? How have they affected the way you communicate? How can you hold those assumptions instead of letting them keep you captive?
If you would like to receive a Self Observation on the subject, feel free to email me. firstname.lastname@example.org
I watched him in his circle of friends at the mini MUN( Model United Nations) award ceremony. They were all chatting joyously and a bit nervous. The results would be coming out soon. The Secretary General started announcing different councils and the winners. The heat was going up as the General Assembly and other minor awards were announced. We were getting closer and closer to the highest recognition, the Outstanding Delegate of the Security Council. I watched them all listening, hoping, wishing to hear their own names, yet looking at my son, patting him on the shoulder and telling him to get ready to collect his Gavel.
“ This delegate is an amazing speaker, showed impeccable knowledge about the subject and his country, was most active, a great listener and a respectful debater. He collaborated to pass the resolutions while demonstrating strong leadership skills. And the award for the Outstanding Delegate of the Security Council goes to…..”
Of course, his country was called and he completed his half seated spring and ran to the stage. The position of someone who knows, who believes that his name will be called. As I watched him shake hands and pose for pictures, I was thinking about how much I have learned from this blossoming young adult. And his three year winning streak in every MUN competition, as he likes to put it.
When it comes to assignments, deadlines and responsibilities he plans every detail and writes them down. Sometimes plans are double checked with me to assure availability. Nothing is left to the last minute. Harder and more time consuming tasks get out of the way first.
What are some of the ways you manage your time with all the social media and network distractions present today? How do you set priorities? What are some ways that you manage your time?
Focusing on & Dedication to Goals
The task at hand is what needs attention. Right here, right now. Focusing is becoming harder and harder. There’s hardly ever time for reflection and creativity in our lives.
If he picks up a task you should trust that it will be fulfilled. With his presence, he easily gets into the “ FLOW” state. A state of high functioning and focus where he uses as much mental capacity as he can.
How do you experience “ presence”? What are some of the ways you get in a “ flow”?
Respecting Self & One’s Capabilities
Knowing where to draw the line, how to avoid burn out is crucial. Being aware of ones gifts and skills. Especially for some personality types who love adventure and a variety subjects interest them being able to define what’s best is truly helpful.
He doesn’t allow anyone to push him beyond his capabilities before he is ready. He respects what he truly loves and feels he is best at. He defines his limits and creates a plan to overcome them without getting himself out of balance.
How often do you create pressure for yourself due to “ musts” & “ Shoulds”? How well are you aware of your capabilities? How do you prepare to overcome limitations?
Relationships can have an immense effect on the choices we make and the results we achieve. Setting proper boundaries, defining contracts that are clear and supportive of one’s perspective set the right tone for success.
He chooses friends, team mates and partners very wisely. And he frequently revisits and observes what is working and what is not working. Being kind and generous, for him, is not in conflict with being fierce and strong.
How effective do you set boundaries in relationships? How much do you have to be stretched to break free from a toxic situation, a toxic relationship? How often do you revisit them?
Developing Strategy For Learning & Competing
We all learn differently. And when it comes to competing ( which I believe we are always in the middle of!) it’s important to be aware of the dynamics, the competitors, the strategy.
For every competition, he develops a learning and competing strategy. He defines the competitors’ blind spots and aims for it. He does not leave any ambiguity on the table.
How do you learn? How many hours a week do you dedicate to learning and sharpening your skills? Even if those skills are totally personal. How often do you become curious?
Allowing Time to Rest & Reflect
Rest and Reflect is far from the common descriptions we give them these days. Most often we return from a vacation even more tired and stimulated. Rest ends up being in front of a screen and reflect is summarized in getting drowned in “ mind talk”.
Resting is a walk by the lake for him and those are the times when he reflects on the events, choices and their results and discusses them at times. Nature is the best retreat. Rest is also aways from a screen, creating something. As small as an origami bat.
What defines “rest” for you? How often do you give yourself time to “reflect”, evaluate your choices and responses and your future path?
Giving It All You Got
Whatever he does, he does it wholeheartedly! He lives life wholeheartedly!
I know! New Year Resolution might be quite a cliché. A passé concept. I am using it as a metaphor. Just for the sake of the connotation it holds with deciding to change a behavior or accomplish a personal goal.
A New Year's resolution is a tradition, most common in the Western Hemisphere but also found in the Eastern Hemisphere, in which a person resolves to change an undesired trait or behavior, to accomplish a personal goal or otherwise improve their life.
Can we agree on that?
As much as we like to be perfect and we like life to be perfect, it never is. There are ( hopefully) always behaviors we like to change or goals we like to accomplish, personal or professional. There is always room to grow.
Pause: Can you think of one thing that can happen in your personal or professional world that would support your vision or your dream?
Staying curious enough will sure open up a couple of subjects, if not more. And most often, as soon as we become aware of the topic we aim for an immediate solution. We decide on a radical change. We press ourselves ( or others) to change a behavior that has probably been created during many years( hence the New Year Resolution).
Pause: How often is a sudden decision to change a behavior effective? How often does a sudden choice to develop a skill initiate action?
As coaches we hear rather common complaints:
Most often than not, a hard and fast decision to change any of these traits is not effective. There are way too many variables that have to be considered and affected before this change can take place. One important one being “Competing Commitments”.
Pause: What are some other things that you are committed to that stand in the way of your New Year Resolution?
Let’s bring an example for competing commitments:
As a leader I may be committed to the value and importance of my staff taking more self initiative. However, I am also,
Pause: Define your competing commitments. What are some commitments that come on the way of the change you wish to create?
Changing from the “ Language of New Year Resolution” to the “ Language of Competing Commitments” will transform your approach. Instead of the burden of a sudden transformation now you can traverse, accept, gently work with all the competing behaviors to get results.
Pause:How can you change your language to include these competing commitments and take advantage of them to create the transformation you wish to see?
By transforming your language, you can transform your reality.
Nothing never will and ever does, fill for the love of a mother. At least not for me.
4 years ago on this day I got the news that I lost my mother to cancer in Chicago airport. I was traveling back to US from Iran. I don't know if I was flying " home" or I had left " home". I know however that I left a broken heart with all the memories of my childhood back where I grew up. Back, where I was taught how to be humble, how to be patient, how to accept & let go, how to be grateful, how to be kind and how to be an Iranian woman. Where, I was taught how to be a mother by the most amazing of them all. Aghdas Sharif. That was her name. The strong, graceful, soft spoken and sacrificial woman that raised me as a single mom. And loved me like no one else.
4 years later, the pain is still there and so is a memory that lights up my heart with joy. The memory of a United Airlines costumer service staff. The memory of her kindness and unconditional love. See, I was standing in the line, hoping to move my flight to Atlanta earlier. There was chaos. A full flight of Marines and their families was cancelled and the line of helpless people trying to find a solution was outrageous. I stood in the line. Crying. Non stop. Like a lost child. This gentle soul was so busy at her desk she didn't have time to breathe. It was finally my turn. I walked up to her counter. I couldn't talk. Our eyes met for a split of a second. And she took the time. She stayed connected. She asked: " Are you doing ok?" And I burst out sobbing even heavier. " I just lost my mom." She stayed with me in her presence. As if there was only she and I in that humongous airport. As if none of the people in the line existed. As if I was the most important task of her day. She walked around her counter. Came right in front of me. She hugged me. Not like a stranger. Not like a sister. Not like a friend. Like a human being sharing the pain of another. She hugged me and the world around us dissolved in the power of her kindness. She cared.
I wish I could find her. I wish I could let her know the warmth of her act of kindness is still with me. I wish I could tell her I carry her in my heart forever. " you are in my prayers"
How often do we stop to be present with the pain of another? How often do we let the light of kindness shine through our hearts in a random act? How much do we allow this busyness to separate us, take us apart further and further? Too much net working, too little caring.
Perhaps it's time to step out, before it's too late.
One Year Tomorrow
The pain seems much more ancient than a year.
The sorrow much deeper than a lifetime can bear.
The Sun never forgot to shine
And the moon never proposed to resign
Flowers still dance in the breeze
With Butterflies, birds and bees
the phone still rings
And the radio constantly sings;
There’s something missing.
So unbearably loved,
No longer heard, no longer smelt,
No longer seen, no longer felt.
There’s a smile, ever so shy and humble
A voice ever so soft and gentle
A touch that used to heal
A heart that could always feel
A love that never failed.
Like a flag losing its pole,
Or a sea without a shore
like a bird without a nest
Or the mountain missing its crest
One year ago,
I lost Love forever.
“Life goes on”, she would say.
Yes, it goes on
But without you
it’s just a hallow drum
hoping to be heard
praying to be loved
( A poem I wrote two years ago for my mom)
Summer seems to be a good time to review and revisit. Before moving on to the third module in Leadership Language, let’s review the first two modules of internal language briefly. Especially with the Leadership Language workshop moving fast forward I thought a pause will be timely.
In the first module we discussed the language of complaint and the passion that lies underneath it. And in the second module we touched on the common language of blame to avoid taking personal responsibility.
Before moving on to “ the language of new year resolution”, Pause and,
I grew up during revolution. Even being deaf by birth could not protect you from hearing the waves of complaint reaching higher and higher. Everyone complained until Shah was dethroned. Did complains stop? Alas! They became even more widespread and even louder. Perhaps because no one focused on the passion people had for their country. No one paid attention to what they were truly committed to; the wellbeing of every individual, now and forthcoming. And perhaps because complain became second nature. A living habit. A safe zone. How does this show up in your organization?
Finding the commitment that lies underneath complain is not always an easy task. At times it may require true courage and readiness to make oneself vulnerable enough. Besides, naturally we always take the easy way out. A strong commitment to a virtue, a value, a personal need or a belief is the fuel feeding the flames of complaint. Where there is complain, there is a passionate commitment. After all, would you complain about the weather if you were not inclined to enjoy a beautiful afternoon by the pool? Would you complain about the new accounting software if you weren't passionate about being efficient and precise? Would you complain about your spouse working late if you were not interested in spending more time together?
Pause. Reflect. Find the Commitment.
I can’t help but think of an expression my mom used a lot having raised eight children. Every time we tried to get away from taking responsibility or blame a situation she would gently remind us of the anecdote: “ You sound like the bride who didn't know how to dance and she blamed it all on the floor being sloped and uneven.” An invitation to observing oneself, however humorous and tender.
Yes, when you don't want to take personal responsibility, there’s always, without a doubt someone or something that can be blamed. So many careers and businesses are built around blame these days that its hard to find fault with blame. It seems that blame has become a natural part of our connections, our businesses and the way we communicate. But are we considering the long term affects of blame?
We blame technology, political figures, nations, economy, every living and non-living thing under these vast skies. We blame each other. All this effort to avoid taking personal responsibility. Is it the bravest, most efficient and kindest thing to do?
Pause. Reflect. Take Responsibility.
Next stop will be “ the Language of New Year Resolution”. Would be helpful to make a list of “ decisions” to change a habit that become “ New Year Resolutions”, hardly manifesting!
When was the last time you recognized a “habit” that is running your life?
Often times when I ask this question, the conversation leads to obvious habits. Good or bad. Things like smoking, drinking, waking up early, working out regularly and such. But that’s really not what I am referring to. I am referring to the habits that we don't easily recognize, the ones that are not evident. Hidden drivers that steer us. These are the habits that really run our lives, shape our responses and make our choices for us.
Let’s make it simple.
Imagine a camera. A camera captures an image through a lens. Of course, the produced image will be affected by the type of the lens we utilize. The lens can bring an object super close, make the surrounding blurry, focus on one point or create many other effects. Habits work the same way. They act like a lens from which we view the world; our surroundings, our relationships, our evaluations of any situation. We are limited by the power of these habits. All the ways we connect to, and communicate with the world, inner & outer worlds, are filtered by these deeply engrained habits, or filters.
How about some examples?
I am often accused of wearing Sunny glasses and just seeing the good in the world. Everything, always, rosy and vibrant! True. That’ s one of the filters I wear. Not intentionally. You may call this a “ good” filter. A habit that keeps me moving forward with a positive attitude, faith and hope. But, the same filter, the same habit, when acting subconsciously can also cause me harm. Many an occasion it can make the reality blurry for me. It can become a hideaway for not seeing what I should see. It filters out all the dangers and negative aspects of a situation when I am facing a moment of decision making and will only allow me to see a distorted version of reality. Like any other habit that we act upon unknowingly, it can have it’s benefits but surely it harms as well.
One of my clients recently decided to start a second Masters Degree in Computer sciences after having an MSc, a PHD, two young kids and a satisfying career. She remembered how she would mix coffee and coke to stay up to study. She recognizes that her health is compromised. But she’s not ready to give up perfectionism. So, she has to do everything herself and never asks for help. Neither is she ready to give up more degrees on her resume. I am all for education. I am all for growth and development. But when “ achieving” becomes a habit, a run-away from personal growth, a safe zone to avoid being present with life; this is when one must pause. How much am I running my life and how much is my life running me.
I am certain you have a million better examples. As John Dryden said: We first make our habits and then our habits make us.”
What habits are making YOU?
What filters do you view the world through?
What can you change?
Why Language of Blame
In the first episode of the Language Series, I discussed the language of complaint and the hidden potential in this way of speaking. In simple words, I described how to uncover the “commitment” that feeds the “complaint”. Read more
In order to keep our commitment hidden safely from others and from ourselves, we subconsciously pick up the language of blame. Blaming other people, conditions, circumstances and events is one of the most common ways we resist the changes we want to make in our lives. It is perhaps the strongest get-out-of-jail card for our nervous system to keep sending the same messages; for our habits to stick with us persistently and for our life story to repeat itself. We change jobs, change partners, change our residency but keep living the same scenarios over and over again.
After all playing the blame game is much easier than taking personal responsibility. Language of blame relieves us from the pressure of having to take action.
Pause. How does this pattern show up in your life? How much of your actions do you take responsibility for? How much do you hide behind blame?
Getting stuck in blame, is a habit well obscured and truly worth the self observation practice. Even the best of us who claim to be well aware and responsible fall into this trap. Allow me to bring some clarification r with a very common example.
I recently coached someone that complained about unfriendly work environment. When we uncovered the passion feeding her complaint, it was revealed that she truly wanted to have better relationships at work and build close friendships. But her blame pattern kept her from taking a step towards her colleagues. She hid behind a huge wall of blaming others for being disconnected and non-accepting. She never allowed her authentic kindness to shine. She didn't want to take responsibility for stepping in and making the connection. She didn't want to accept the responsibility that she's a very private introvert herself. It was, of course, easier to blame.
Yet another case.
During a coaching program when my client complained for being over worked, we discovered that her passion for perfection leads her to this complaint. She was so committed to everything being perfect in her way that she quietly refused to ask for help. Instead of taking responsibility for not asking others for help she was drowning herself in blaming them for not doing anything right.
Is it a bit more clear now?
Taking the blame stance vs personal responsibility by no means denies our dedication to a matter. In no way does it reduce our commitment. It’s just a very natural tool that we, as humans, have access to and utilize it pretty well.
Pause. Is there anything you can take personal responsibility for today? How can you use this new behavior to achieve what you want? What would help you get back on the track every time you get stuck in the blame game?
Creating a self observation around blame and self responsibility is well worth the time and effort. In fact, it can be more life changing than you can imagine.
Those of you who have been in any form or shape curious about any kind of martial arts, probably know that Aikido is one of the most elite, most transformational and most effective of them all. Aikido, in fact, is not just a martial art. It’s a way of being. A practice for life.
Turning back time to some 8 years ago when I first started aikido as an assignment by my coach for my personal development, I had no idea what I am getting myself into. I stepped into the dojo like a dolled up Business Development guru, so assured of my talents. I was not shy to let others notice my “ I got this” attitude. The attitude of an over confident, self assured immigrant who had to work twice as hard to make it happen without any support. Humility was just waiting around the corner to be discovered.
For a sheltered young woman from Iran stepping on the martial arts mat was an immense interruption. I had never had my wrist grabbed. No one had charged at me with a shomenuchi attack. Even though I grew up during war.
It was aikido, that revealed to me the narrative I was living in and the way I talked based on that narrative. You see, while practicing a technique, you throw the attacker at least ten times in the row. Every time they charge at you, you throw them and sometimes manipulate their joints till they tap from pain. Well, for the real spirit of martial arts you cannot throw someone and keep apologizing. You can, but, really?!
I never knew the extend that “apologizing” was the center of my language. Every time I threw someone in a beautiful spiral movement, I would say: “ I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” Until one day sensei stepped behind me with a baton. He said,” You're gonna get hit next time you say I’m sorry.” He was not joking. And, no, he is NOT an angry person. He is NOT rough or aggressive. He is, in fact, the kindest, most gentle fierce person I have ever known. He discovered the weakness in my language that ruled my behavior. He discovered the limitation my words were creating for me better than any coach ever would. He taught me that living in apologies was not moving me forward in life. He taught me that the over regretful response to my rightful boundary is worse than setting no boundaries. He taught me the value of my words. He taught me ‘say what you mean and mean what you say’.
Here I am. Many years later. Observing myself in much different relationships, career path and environment. Finding myself much more mindful about the life I am creating with the words that I use and the style I communicate with. A little observation takes one a long way. So I ask you,
When was the last time you observed your words?
What is the effect of your communication style?
How is it helping you?
Thank you Sensei!
Surrounded by complaints? You are not alone!
Simply because research shows that an average person complains between 15-30 times a day. Now that’s average! Not counting people working during recession on furloughs or while going through major political and social transformation. That is not bringing into account personal life changes and careers choices that affect our language. What?! Would you say those 50% of couples who go through divorce in US* can get away holding their tongues? Or do you think the roughly 400,000 civil and criminal court cases** leaves all parties satisfied happily ever after without complaining? How about those 3.5 million underpaid teachers helping us educate our next generation? Have you heard them complain?
You will be my hero if you can claim there are no complaints in your organization. If you can hold the banner of a complaint-free culture, I would be super curious as to how. If you have eliminated the language of complaint in your world, hats off to you.
I haven’t! I have a 13 year old in middle school. Venting to me after school is a chore of his. I am a coach! A big part of my job is LISTENING. I hear complaints even when I cover my ears! That one is in my own head, however. But really, if there’s not a nagging complaining voice, why would you want to grow, improve, develop and become a better version of yourself? or improve your processes at your organization?
Well, I can go on and on. But I guess the point is rather clear. People complain. We all do.It’s part of our daily language and communication. However, the way complaint is received and processed makes a huge difference, in relationships, organizations and communities. Complaint can stir curiosity for seeing differently, acting differently and being differently. Or can create a toxic environment that would make the strongest of us wither.
Do you see the power of complaint?
I don’t want to get into the recently fashionable “ 4 ways” and “ 5 rules” and “ 6 reasons”. I generally don't believe in one size fits all for anything that relates to human behavior and culture. And I truly don't believe even if I do offer “ 4 ways” it will be implemented just by reading a blog. But I do believe, proper handling of complaints can improve organization culture. I do believe that listening to complaints the right way AND complaining the right way can save organizations hundreds of thousands of dollars not just by improving processes but also by reducing employee turn over and client loyalty. I do believe that directed complaint opens the room for feedback.
So, let’s get curious! Let’s get to work!
First step of any development, of any growth, personally and in an organization is : (Self) Observation.
When was the last time you caught yourself complaining?
When was the last time you heard and listened to passionate complaints of your employees?
When was the last time you did something about them?
If not now, then when?
I am here to listen!
* The number is actually declining http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/02/divorce-rate-declining-_n_6256956.html